I was recently in Napa and had the pleasure of visiting some great wineries and tasting some amazing wines. One of the standouts from the trip was my stop at Tres Sabores Winery in St. Helena on Whitehall Lane. This is not too far from the famed Whitehall Lane Winery.
Before I get into the experience of the tasting, here is a little background on the winery. Julie Johnson is the owner and winemaker. Her husband, Jon Engelskirger, is the consulting winemaker and an experienced winemaker in his own right. “Tres Sabores” translated means three tastes. According to their website, tressabores.com, you will find three distinct tastes in each of the wines – The Terroir, The Vine and The Artisan.  Terroir – The flavor embodied by the distinct location of the vineyard.  Vine – The unique character of the actual varietal.  Artisan – The winemaker’s personal contribution of intuition and style. When these three tastes are balanced, the wines have intense, yet delicate aromas and a structure that can handle immediate consumption or laying down for aging.
Now onto the tasting – We walked over to a small shack structure where a young man named Holden greeted us. He was our host for the tour and tasting. He poured the Napa Valley Rosé ($20) from a clear bottle with an orange square label. Even though I am not usually a fan of Rosé, I must admit it was a refreshing way to start the tour on a warm Napa day.
We made our way across the gravel and dirt road, past the vineyard to the shade of a large tree. The sounds of the nearby guinea hens filled the air as Holden talked about the history of the winery and the surrounding area of the vineyard. Located on the western Rutherford Benchland of California’s Napa Valley, the ranch grows organically certified Zinfandel, Cabernet, Petite Syrah and Petit Verdot grapes, Meyer lemons, olives, and pomegranates.
We then moved onto a 2010 Chardonnay ($25), which in this case was fermented in stainless steel – that is, no oak barrels. I normally like a lot of “butter and oak” in Chardonnay, but this was a nice change for me. It had great structure and fruit, and was also from the Farina Vineyard near the Sonoma coast.
The next wine we tasted was the 2010 Rutherford Estate Zinfandel ($35). This was a special wine in that it hadn’t been in the bottle very long. The Zinfandel had a bit of pepper (that I particularly love in a Zin) and was very good. I know this one will only get better the longer it sits in the bottle. The wine was aged for 21 months in 40% new oak (mostly French and some American). Only 475 cases made, so this one will go fast.
The last wine, that happened to be my favorite, was called ¿POR QUÉ NO? Translated from Spanish, it means “Why not?” This 2009 vintage is a blend of half Zinfandel, almost equal amounts of Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Sirah, with a “dollop” of Petit Verdot. At $25, this gives the much-touted (often mentioned) Orin Swift Prisoner a run for its money. Being the tenth vintage of this great blend, the grapes are from Rutherford, Calistoga, Oakville and Sonoma. So “Why not” try it? 2000 cases made.
In addition to the wines we tasted, Tres Sabores makes a small amount (127 cases) of Cabernet Sauvignon. According to the website, the flavors are bold and plush with a velvet interior –overall the impression is one of rounded elegance.
Because I was at the winery during crush (grapes were just pulled off the vine), the ranch was full of activity. Even though winemaker Julie was busy working with the must (freshly pressed fruit juice that contains skins, seeds and fruit stems) in the giant bins, she took time to greet us and make us feel welcome. It was a pleasure tasting The Terroir, The Vine and The Artisan in the wine she has a strong passion creating.